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Cubs Heroes and Goats: Off day edition

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A look at this year’s fight for the top and bottom spots and comparison to years past.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates
Rizzo has been at or near the top throughout the life of this column.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

There is tension in Cubs nation this week and rightly so. The division race got much closer than we’d have liked. Just for kicks, the Rockies seem to have steadied things a bit and once again the Wild Card that looked like a potential life raft has moved just beyond our reach. The Pirates sent a gift last night. The Brewers are really not that good when Zach Davies or Jimmy Nelson doesn’t start.

When Davies starts, they are 19-11. With Nelson it is 17-12. With anyone else, it is 39-46. Brent Suter starts for them tonight and they are 5-6 in games that he starts (6-12 in games in which he appears at all). The Brewers have started 10 different pitchers at least once this year. Craig Counsell went heavily to the whip more than a week ago. I firmly believe they will run out of gas before the end of the year.

But, I didn’t bring you here today to talk about the Brewers. That was just a nice bonus from last night’s game. I thought I’d take a look at the top five and bottom five in the Heroes and Goats standings over the life of this column.

With 19 games to play, the top 5 for the Cubs are:

  • Anthony Rizzo 39
  • Willson Contreras 32
  • Kris Bryant 19
  • Wade Davis 18
  • Kyle Hendricks 14

This is almost certainly a two-man race. With Willson Contreras returning to at least some action this week, he has some chance of running down Rizzo, though it will be tough.

On the down side, the bottom five are:

  • Jason Heyward -21
  • John Lackey -19
  • Javier Baez -17
  • Addison Russell -15
  • Ben Zobrist/Koji Uehara -14

Addison Russell’s injury may well have eliminated his chances at finishing in last place and Koji Uehara doesn’t see many high leverage situations, so he’s unlikely to win this either. Technically Carl Edwards Jr. and Jon Lester at -11 and Albert Almora Jr. at -10 have some chance of finishing at the bottom. Given that every week there are players that gain or lose fiver or more points, this race is definitely wide open.

In reverse chronological order, the top/bottom five from 2016:

Top five:

  • Jon Lester 51.5
  • Kyle Hendricks 37
  • Anthony Rizzo 34.5
  • Jake Arrieta 27.5
  • Jason Hammel 12

Bottom five:

  • Jason Heyward -48.5
  • Addison Russell -21.5
  • Javier Baez -19.5
  • Kris Bryant -14
  • Ben Zobrist -12.5

The top/bottom five from 2015:

Top five:

  • Anthony Rizzo 65.5
  • Jake Arrieta 51
  • Kris Bryant 39
  • Jon Lester 16
  • Tommy La Stella 9

Bottom five:

  • Starlin Castro -24
  • David Ross -21.5
  • Addison Russell -19.5
  • Justin Grimm -16.5
  • Jorge Soler -15

The top/bottom five from 2014:

Top five:

  • Anthony Rizzo 47.5
  • Jake Arrieta 30
  • Starlin Castro 20.5
  • Chris Coghlan 18
  • Luis Valbuena/Justin Ruggiano 14

Bottom five:

  • Edwin Jackson -37
  • Nate Schierholtz -27.5
  • Junior Lake -24
  • Travis Wood -23
  • Arismendy Alcantara -22.5

It is stunning that Anthony Rizzo has topped this list twice already, finished third the year he didn’t win and is now poised to win for the third time in four years. Jake Arrieta has been near the top of the list every year he has been a Cub. Kris Bryant has appeared near the top and near the bottom of this list, having finished third as a rookie and fourth from the bottom last year and back up to third this year. There are some fun names on there from 2014, the first year that Russ ran this column.

I try to look at the story that each season told. In 2014, the top six were five hitters and a starter. The bottom five were two starting pitchers (Travis Wood actually lead the Cubs in starts that year) and three role players. When the Cubs were successful in 2014, their bats powered them early. Their starting rotation often dug holes the team couldn’t escape from as Wood and Jackson had the most and second most starts and were not good. Jake Arrieta had a 2.53 ERA! He’d have finished with the sixth best ERA in the league had he made one more start with matching performance.

In 2015, the top five consisted of two hitters, two starters and a role player. The bottom five were two full time starters (Castro and Russell both started over 130 games and appeared in over 140), a third guy in Soler who started 94 games, a back up catcher and a reliever. The story here was that things were starting to come together, but the team still needed a little more offensive balance and another pitcher or two to step up.

In 2016, the top five were four starting pitchers and Rizzo. The bottom five were five regular players. This is what a dominant team looks like. The rotation locked things down and the offense was productive early in games. The team took the lead early and the starting pitchers held those leads. If you didn’t get a hit the first time through the order, you had a fair chance of being a goat. There was little opportunity for a closer or even a set up man or role player to make much of a positive impact.

In 2017, we have three hitters, a closer and a starter at the top. We have four hitters, a reliever and a starter at the bottom. These games are competitive. Everyone has a chance to make an impact in either a positive or negative direction. We see a lot of hitters near the bottom. The hitters haven’t been consistent in important situations.

A lot of generalizations there. And four seasons is a small sample size, really. This offseason, we’ll look at another season, one from year’s past. I’m going to offer a couple of options and let you choose which one we’ll look at. If those columns are well received, I’ll review other seasons in future offseasons.

In Today’s poll, I’d like to name the award this column will give out to the season champion. My first instinct was Top Hero/Top Goat. I’m fairly certain my brain kicked that out because I’ve always been a Top Gun fan. But now I’m wondering if in being consistent with the column, the winner should be Superhero/Billy Goat of the Year. Please let me know what you think is best.

Poll

What should I call the season winner in the standings?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    Top Hero/Top Goat
    (8 votes)
  • 75%
    Superhero of the Year/Billy Goat of the Year
    (33 votes)
  • 6%
    Other (please leave your suggestion in the comments)
    (3 votes)
44 votes total Vote Now